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Learning The New Golden Rule

Textile companies use the principles of sustainable development to improve the bottom line.

Sustainable development can be defined as building value without impacting the opportunities of future generations to do the same. Sounds a bit like the Golden Rule and, in essence, it is. Future generations will be pleased if we leave them a clean natural environment, opportunities for development and a future vision for their children. Corporations are looking at the benefits of the triple bottom line of profits, environment and community, as equally important in building long-term value. Sustainable PhilosophyThe philosophy of sustainability that has been developing since the 1960s is based on the idea that environmental stewardship and total quality management are one in the same. Integration of all business processes into one unified vision of success, comes as our information driven world produces better tools to measure and observe the effects of change on ever larger systems.When our businesses become more like nature, operational losses move closer toward zero. This maximizes efficiency, which in turn increases profits. Seems simple, but its not. From A Textile Point Of ViewThe textile industry is one that has great opportunities to build truly sustainable value. Visionary textile com-panies are designing their businesses to thrive in a dynamic market that will con-tinue to grow with a population of informed and savvy consumers.

Striving for zero operational losses increases profits and also leaves a cleaner environment for future generations.The textile industry has always been on the leading edge of changes. It was the first industry to emerge from the cottage into factories, thus beginning the Industrial Revolution. It is an industry that has always followed its sources of raw materials and developing economies, seeking greater efficiencies and lower costs. The reasons for the migration of U.S. textile manufacturing from the Northeast to the South was based on the proximity to the cotton crop and the ready, low-cost labor after the Civil War.So the industry moves today, with whole segments of textile production leaving the United States and following lower labor costs as the raw material supply chain becomes global.The first indicators of the real value of designing textile businesses based on the principals of sustainable development were seen in the 1990s. Polyester fleece fabrics made from recycled soda bottles, organic cotton farming, low-impact dyeing and finishing with process water recycling, dyeing with supercritical CO2 and carpet fibers and backing being recycled are all movements toward a sustainable business model. Commerce itself is even being redefined. Interface Inc., Atlanta, a forward- thinking textile company, believes that owning carpeting is not necessary to achieve a floor covering that is clean and is always serviced. It is the function of what is wanted, not the thing itself. Commerce is being designed to pay for function and utility. Automobiles, clothes and computers provide function and utility. We do not need to own the thing to get these services. This simple redesign of commerce produces opportunities to increase durability, eliminate non-recycled raw materials and increases efficiency in design as things are produced that are built to last forever.Burlington Chemical Co., Burlington, N.C., an ISO 9001 specialty chemical manufacturer that serves the textile industry, adopted the principals of sustainable development two years ago. It was decided to focus on these goals as a way to build value in the company over the long term and to increase the ultimate efficiency of the company.Burlington Chemical believes that value can be defined as:Value = Cost + Benefits;Benefits = Efficient control of complexity.Using these two equations, it is easy to see that when there are no benefits, costs or price is the only factor that drives value. Controlling complexity as a benefit diminishes the cost or price issues in the equation. The higher the benefit the less important the cost. Aiding In The ControlIt was decided in 1987 that a class of surfactants call Alkyl Phenol Ethoxylates (APEs) were indicated in foaming and aquatic toxicity problems. There were known alternatives based on proven safer chemistry, but were a bit more expensive. Burlington Chemical decided as a policy not to use these APE products to remove one variable from the aquatic toxicity issues facing its customers. This has saved the company and its customers millions of dollars in environmental costs by taking the simple natural solution of using less toxic materials when available.BurcoCare a product stewardship testing program produces biodegrad-ability, aquatic toxicity and biomass toxicity data on all Burco® products. This readily available information controls the complexity of information gathering and questions concerning chemistry.Burco SA-200 is the first reactive dyeing alkali to be manufactured directly from CO2 sequestered from the atmosphere. Tons of this greenhouse gas was converted in a product used in textile dyeing using a patented technique that mimics the actions of corals and plants. It is the first true liquid carbonate dyeing alkali. The majority of the Burco products from synthesis are based on vegetable derived chemistries and have high yields producing little or no toxic by-products.Rehance®, a new printing process, has been developed to replace plastisol printing of textiles. This eliminates PVC and phthalates from decorated textiles and reduces the weight of the prints by 200+ percent. It is a breathable, durable and iron able screen-printing technique that builds value in cellulose textiles.At Burlington Chemical, more than 80 percent of all its shipping containers are recycled. Trees are planted each year to use the CO2 produced by driving company transports. Programs in recycling and reuse of resources are active throughout the company. A Smart Tank virtual inventory management system using ERP software is controlling inventory costs and cash flows for customers. Managing information is managing complexity and building value. Also, Health/Safety and Environmental Affairs and the ISO Quality group were merged within the company.
Visionary textile companies are designing its businesses to thrive in a dynamic market containing informed and savvy consumers. Gaining MomentumThe efforts of organizations worldwide to define sustainable value, thus improving the efficiency of commerce and sustaining society are gaining momentum. It is not the program of the week or the newest hot topic out of business schools, but a way to build continuous value for the stakeholders of corporations by mimicking the efficiency of nature.Nature is a system that has millions of years of continuous improvement as evolution and is the best model that we have for true efficiency. The value of building corporate goals based on producing smarter products that contain less stuff, can enable a higher quality of life for everyone. The textile industry is at a crossroads. The opportunities to build value in apparel, commercial and industrial textiles are great when viewed within the context of the principals of sustainable development.



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